Nations tend to go ape upon winning the World Cup (soccer/football variety), so one can forgive Germans for leaving their shells to celebrate the recent event in Rio de Janeiro. Such emotion is usually displayed only at Fasching, when all inhibitions are legally cast aside.
Hundreds of thousands flocked to Berlin to welcome the team, which arrived on a specially painted Lufthansa 747 and then progressed in a foot-faced procession—atop a specially designed Mercedes truck—to the Brandenburg Gate, where the crowd had been waiting as long as 8 hours to ensure a good spot. That merely see—from a distance—some young men that are able to kick a ball better than most. The rest of the nation remained glued to a television, despite the two hour delay in arrival. (A baggage cart collided with the plane at Rio airport, perhaps as revenge for the Brazil-Germany debacle.) Football/soccer unites nations, unlike the divisions caused by football/baseball/basketball in the United States, which do not have national teams.
For years—decades even—Germans feared showing too much exuberance and never displayed the flag outside official buildings. Lately, the (ugly) red/black/gold are seen everywhere, including being worn as a cape. Everything American was copied, except public-display-of-affection for the national flag: that has soccer/football to thank for its growth.
Winning is great and adulation is gratifying, but now the pressure is on to perform equally well at the upcoming (2016) European Championship and the next World Cup competition (2018). And, all these guys start playing for their respective professional clubs soon, where no one cares about nationality. There is never any rest for the weary in the world of top level football/soccer.
In some cases, Americans have been clever in appropriating professional sports global championships: World Series, Super Bowl, NBA crown (whatever it’s called), etc. With the exception of the Olympic Games, the honour of the nation is never piled on the shoulders of one athlete or even a team.
Soccer/football (notice how multi-lingual I am and how considerate of non-Americans) is different. The World Cup competition brings out the worst of nationalism. People, who are rarely interested in sport, come out of the woodwork and from beneath stones to rave about something about which they know little. The main criteria is to root for one’s own.
Germans never fly the national flag, especially in one’s yard, except during the World Cup. For a short time, cars are adorned with flags, mirror decorations, and hood covers in the national colours. During games of the national team, streets are devoid of cars; bars are full, and something known as “public viewing” overflows with people seeking their like to cheer or suffer. Fears that nationalism might remind people of World War II are forgotten for the duration. The hopes of the nation ride on every game/match. Angie even flew to Brazil for the opening game and was back in the office the next day. Can you imagine Obama doing that? For soccer? Angie knew that voters would expect this and would appreciate her effort. No one questioned the cost of the fuel or her neglecting the crisis in Ukraine or battles with the UK over the European leadership issue.
Of course, similar scenes are repeated around the world in countries lucky enough to qualify for the competition. As teams fall be the wayside, countries will suffer psychological damage and spend the next four years analysing what went wrong and who is to blame. (If you don’t believe, check English newspapers, who lament or criticise their team’s early demise, the worst showing in 60 years.) Coaches are fired. Players, of course, return to highly paid jobs with professional clubs/teams.
Life goes on…
This item probably did not make the news outside Europe, especially in the United States because the story is about pilots and not a plane crash. And, who cares about a strike?
Lufthansa pilots are on strike for three days. Being the largest airline in Europe and one of the world’s biggest, you can imagine the turmoil caused by the cancellation of thousands of flights. The strike started at midnight last night, so planes and crews are scattered around the globe. Ticket holders in Germany receive free train tickets, international passengers are given free re-booking. A few flights are being operated by non-union pilots, but the number is insignificant.
People tend to side with striking workers in this country, but not in this case. The general tenor is against the pilots, because the majority feel that they make too much money. Germany is a country of jealous people. No one likes to see a neighbor earning more or even working longer hours. Pilots are one of the highest-paid groups, with senior captains making more than many CEO’s.
Number One Son, who joined the union, is enjoying a paid vacation in Berlin. Fortunately, the weather is fine, so he is visiting the zoo, beer gardens, and shopping arcades. He does not care how the strike ends up. Pilots tend to have a strong bargaining position, because the company cannot replace them...
The only story of interest in Germany is not Malaysia, Ukraine, or Syria. These are insignificant, because a leading figure in the world of German football/soccer has been convicted of tax evasion. The president of Bayern Munich, the most-successful club in the country and holder of the European title, and the man credited with building the club into a powerhouse has been brought down by greed, arrogance, and hubris. Germans, who like to think of themselves as Europe’s most-honest taxpayers, are enjoying a bit of Schadenfreude...except for fans of Bayern Munich, who would forgive any sin of the club’s president.
One must excuse Germans for not being interested in what’s happening in the East. They have more important matters on their minds.
It is Fasching. Since last Thursday, parties and parades and crazy behavior have ruled the land. Normally straight-laced people are expected to be foolish, and party-poopers are harassed, teased, or ignored. Fun is allowed, whereas seriousness is the norm for the rest of the year. Politicians are ridiculed with impunity and they grim and bear it. The only thing not tolerated is drinking and driving, but that does not stop people.
Happy Second Christmas (known as Boxing Day in England). I have no idea about the meaning or origin of this holiday, either in Germany or England. Regardless, all workers are happy to have another day off.
For some reason, Christmas is known in Germany as Weihnacten. As already mentioned, there are two. This is useful for married couples, because the have a Christmas day for each set of parents. Rotation is necessary to prevent jealousy, because the first Christmas seems to rank ahead of the second in terms of parental status. Most important for family gathering is Christmas Eve, but most parents will settle sharing a festive meal on Christmas Day.
If you look up weih in a dictionary, you get votive (“an object offered in fulfillment of a vow”). I am sure that there is some esoteric meaning to relate this to December 25th and 26th, but no one seems to know or care. It’s a time of celebration: religious for religious folks, pagan for infidels, and commercial for all others.
Some things cannot be explained.
For instance, why do Germans consider December 24 to be Christmas, while American insist the it falls on the 25th. And, why do some countries have “2nd” Christmas on the 26th? Even Germans call the 26th the Second Christmas, when, by their reasoning, it should be the 3rd. Go figure.
I like the German tradition of opening presents on the evening of the 24th. This is particularly advantageous for parents, who are not dragged out of bed early in the morning of the 25th...as my parents were. And, I’m sure that children are happy not to be forced to wait another 12 hours to tear the wrappings off the packages that have lain, tantalizingly, under the tree for days and even weeks.
So, one more reason to live in Germany...
Merry Christmas...to anyone that cannot wait until tomorrow!
Whenever I hear politicians--primarily from US or UK--tout their citizens as the “best workers in the world”, I smirk. First of all, a good portion of those toiling in any country are foreigners, which surely skews the score. Second, and more important, nationality has little or no effect on worker performance. Foreign manufacturers (no English automobile firm has survived) erect factories in England not because workers are superior, but because of favorable taxes and cooperative unions.
Human traits are universal. People are either diligent or lazy, conscientious or indifferent, intelligent or stupid, healthy or impaired, loyal or false, etc. Nationality plays no role. People work hard for a variety of reasons: out of fear of losing a job, because few are offered; because of his or her character; to curry favor, etc.
I have seen a report comparing productivity in Germany and England. Guess which nation loses! One never hears German leadership (political, union, industrial) boast about their workers, but the numbers tell the story. Germans understand the importance of caring for workers, not the need for empty words.
I am a nice person.
That statement might surprise some people, who base their assessment on what they read on this worthless blog. I have a few strong opinions about what I observe. Being a cynic, I state the obvious, which most avoid doing.
I proved this, again, to myself today at the grocery store. When in line at checkout, I usually let someone with less items go before me. I allowed an elderly couple with two items--felt slippers, because winter is coming--to precede me. They were very thankful, despite the insignificance of the gesture. Most Germans push ahead, as opposed to holding back or letting someone precede them.
Today is a holiday in Germany: Reunification Day, to commemorate the joining of “communist” East Germany with “democratic” West Germany. This basically meant that citizens of the former West Germany took over paying for their poor “relatives” from the east...and are still paying today.
As on most holidays, there are festivals up and down the country all competing for visitors and their pocket money. Even I managed to leave my lair and venture out to a festival in the old part of town, partly because the weather was so nice...and my wife dragged me.
The main attraction of these festivals is food and drink. This one had a “foreign” flair, offering French stuff. Flammkuchen is a favorite in Alsace, which now belongs to France, despite often being German (check history for yourself). This is not unlike pizza, since it is unleavened bread (kuchen) with toppings heated over a fire (flamm), except that some have sweet toppings (apple and cinnamon is tasty). This was probably introduced into the region by Roman soldiers on their march north along the Rhine River.
Local fare was also available. Being Autumn, people could bring apples from their yard and have them pressed into cider. Or they could buy some.
Despite the foreign words, neither is the Word of the Day. That honor falls to a fish. The word for trout is Forelle.
This word has significance for me due a minor incident in the past. I spent my 21st birthday alone in Fussen, Germany. I had traveled there with a Eurail Pass to visit Neuschwanstein Castle and was spending the night in a cheap pension (I was a poor student!). For my birthday dinner, I decided upon the brewery restaurant, having heard that they always had good food. I wanted to have trout...but did not know the word and no one spoke English. I ended up pointing to the word goulash on the menu, that being the only dish I recognized. This was very different from the dish my mother prepared, but I recall that it was tasty. Still, it was not trout, so my birthday was not great. Now that I know the word, I am no longer interested in eating this fish.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.